As a trainer and nutritionist, one of the dilemmas I face is convincing other mothers that they can get themselves into incredible shape regardless. This month I introduce to you, Holly Powell - mother, athlete and inspiration!
Kristin Reisinger: Please tell me a little bit about your background: age, athletic background, childhood, etc. Anything you might feel is pertinent to where you are now in terms of fitness and competition.
Holly Powell: I am 31 years old and have always been an active person ever since childhood. I never really competed in any sports because my family moved around all the time. I never went to the same school for more than 2 years until high school. When I say I always kept active, I mean, I never liked just sitting around. I was always outside playing, riding my bike, roller skatingâ€¦ keeping busy. I'm that way as an adult too. However, I did attempt track (the 400m) my freshman year of high school. I wasn't very good so that was the only year I tried. I didn't push myself and really had no support from family so I gave up.
KR: How long have you been involved in fitness and how did you get involved?
HP: I have been involved in fitness for 10 years. Right before my 21st birthday I looked in the mirror and saw things, that well, looked like what I saw on my mother. Saddlebags, love handles, etc., so I joined a small gym called "Performance fitness" that was just down the road. I began taking aerobic classes and fell in love.
Three months later my husband and I both joined Bally's and I began weight training and have been hooked ever since. I remember I would never train my chest because I was afraid I would look too much like a guy, so I trained every other body part, until my husband convinced me otherwise! In 1995 my husband and I moved to Florida where he became the Fitness Director at Gold's Gym and trained many, many clients. I loved going into the gym at 11:00pm and having the entire place to myself to train -- it was awesome! Those were the days which are all different, now that I'm a mother.
KR: What kind of shape were you in before you became pregnant?
HP: I was in above average shape before I got pregnant. My body fat was around 19-20% and I trained 5 days a week, but not at the intensity I do now. I was kind of in a "maintenance" mode. I wasn't making huge gains, but also wasn't gaining body fat. I was size 5/6 and happy with my body.
KR: What was your pregnancy like in terms of weight gain and activity level?
HP: When I found out I was pregnant I didn't stop working out. I still trained 5 days a week, but at a lower intensity level. I still did squats, lunges, barbell curls, etc. I was really concerned about keeping my weight under control. Sometime in November, I was about 6 months along in my pregnancy, my doctor told me I was beginning to dilate and should back off on the workouts.
I guess a lot of pressure gets put on the baby from standing for periods of time while weight training as well as jumping around doing cardio. I've heard stories of women being on bedrest for long periods of time and I didn't want that to be me. At this point in my life I had been working out consistently for 7 years and felt anxious for a break. I wanted to enjoy my pregnancy and nothing else.
So let's just say I felt I was given a get out of jail free card, which isn't an excuse for how I ate, but I fulfilled all my cravings. I was 138lbs. before I got pregnant, and was about 183lbs when I gave birth. You do the math... +45lbs!!
KR: How did you feel about your body after you gave birth?
HP: I hated my body after I gave birth. Like I said I had been in above average shape for the past 7 years and felt disgusted with how I looked. I hated feeling how loose and rolly-polly my stomach was. Yuck. I was really, really depressed. I avoided looking in the mirror all together. I began to breastfeed (which was awesome) and started burning calories from the get go. I remember every time after I finished nursing my baby I was starving! Once I got the okay from my doc I began working out again, about 6 weeks after giving birth.
KR: What was your training schedule and nutrition plan like after the pregnancy?
HP: In the beginning there was no plan. I was nursing my son what seemed like every 2-3 hours (hmmm, kinda how I eat now!) and was completely exhausted. I tried to get to the gym 3-4 days a week, easing my way back into it. I didn't have much energy or drive, it was harder than what I had expected. I remember a few times while I was at the gym my husband would call saying my son had woken up and was screaming to be nursed, so needless to say my workouts got cut short many times.
As far as nutrition goes, I started cleaning up my diet. I knew making wise food choices would be beneficial for my health, state of mind, and would be good for my son since I was nursing. So I began eating healthy again once he was born. Or course, I'd have treats and cheats, I just tried to limit it to the weekends.
KR: You didn't decide to compete until after you had a child. What sparked the interest in figure competition?
HP: My son was 10 months old when Davana Medina won the first ever Figure National title. I remember looking at her picture and thinking, "I want to do that!" She looked so awesome and her body type is very, very similar to mine. That's what sparked my interest. Then, I went to the Arnold Classic in 2003 and saw the first ever Pro Figure show and that pretty much sealed my fate.
I felt I had a good chance since I had been weight training for 9 years. I knew I had great muscle maturity. I also knew the hard part would be shedding the fat. I got down to a comfortable size 7/8 and some 9/10's for about 2 years after giving birth. I wasn't thrilled with my condition and knew competition dieting would get me where I wanted to be, back down to my pre-baby size of a 5/6.
KR: How long did you prepare for the 2003 Figure Nationals?
HP: I began dieting February 2nd, 2003 to prepare for a local NPC show, the Michael Francois classic held on May 28th, 2003. I placed 15th out of 26 girls. I wasn't unhappy with my placing. I wasn't as lean as I wanted to be and my posing was horrible! My body fat was 11.5% for that show.
It was a start, and I was hooked. I set my sights on Nationals and kept dieting straight through. I had 12 weeks before Nationals. I actually took about 6 weeks after the show in May and tried to take advantage of the anabolic phase I was about to enter. I trained heavy and increased my calories. I then started dieting hard the last 6 weeks. It was rough. My body didn't like being in such a calorie "deficit".
I remember so many times when I would stand up I would get dizzy and see stars. That's not good. I was probably starting to become a little catabolic, not to mention my body was being stubborn and did not want to let go of any more fat. I now know with every show I do, I will stay leaner more naturally. It just takes time. Not to mention I wouldn't be here today if it wasn't for all the support and coaching from my wonderful husband, Craig. He has been there every step of the way.
KR: How did you feel about the results for your first national show?
HP: I was so HAPPY! I came in at about 9.5% body fat. I was the 5th call out in my one piece (20th-25th place) and the 6th call out for my two piece (25th-30th place) and that was out of 64 girls! I left feeling more invigorated and focused than I've ever felt in my life.
For the first time I actually feel I'm where I belong. I've longed to compete, but didn't want to compete as a female bodybuilder and knew I had no chance of doing fitness contest since I couldn't do a back flip if my life depended on it! It was one of the most rewarding experiences I've ever had. I didn't need a trophy to feel I accomplished my goal. Being on that stage summed it all up for me.
KR: What are your fitness goals for the future?
HP: Right now I am working on my "lagging" body parts and training really heavy to put some more size on my upper body. I plan on competing at the Jr. USA's in April. When I tell people about the next show I'm doing they always say... "you've got time, it's so far away..." but I'm on a scheduled program and feel it's right around the corner! Sometimes I feel a little frantic because I want to start dieting 16 weeks out for the Jr. USA's which means right after Christmas it all beginsâ€¦and we all know how the holidays sneak up on us!!
KR: If there were one thing you could tell a mother looking to get into shape post-pregnancy, what would it be?
HP: Set a goal. Have a date in mind that you'd like to reach your goal by and go for it! Having a goal helps you stay focused. Realize you are not just doing it for yourself, but for your child too. There's nothing to it but to do it. Of course you are busy, but plan each day with some sort of activity. Have forethought and prepare yourself for a life of good health and fitness... for the rest of your life. Kids are full of tons of energy and it takes good mental and physical health just to keep up with them! Dr. Phil said many parents would be willing to die for their child... so why not live for them?
About The Author
Kristin Reisinger is a New York City-based nutritional consultant, personal trainer, freelance health + fitness writer, musician and cynic. She is currently completing her Master's Degree in Applied Physiology + Nutrition from Columbia University and will be sitting for the Registered Dietitian examination through the American Dietetic Association in the winter of 2004. She is also a National-level NPC Figure athlete, former Galaxy competitor, avid snowboarder + rock climber and has been competing for over three years. For more information or to contact Kristin, please visit: http://www.kristinreisinger.com